Unless a campaign is hot and heavy, states' chief executives do not generally hit the road stumping for a given issue, especially outside of their jurisdictions. But two governors – Oklahoma's Mary Fallin and Colorado's John Hickenlooper – did just that on Monday, visiting the headquarters of Chrysler, GM and Ford to make it crystal clear that natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are a huge priority.
Fallin and Hickenlooper are among 11 other governors who have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will pool their purchasing power and likely give the NGV market a big bump. These governors sent a letter to 19 automakers this spring, explaining their desire to add NGVs to their states' fleets and advocating a partnership among private industry and state governments to bolster the cause.
Oklahoma Secretary of Energy Michael Ming and Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Dave Lopez joined Hickenlooper and Fallin to chat with the Big Three, and Ming tells NGT News that discussions with Honda – which is currently the only OEM manufacturing a natural gas car for the North American market – are planned for this week.
‘We were very pleased with the reception we got and the product development efforts underway,’ he says.
The objective behind the visit to Detroit was simple: make an unambiguous statement that the multi-state, bipartisan initiative is strongly committed to the use of natural gas in light-duty transportation. In short, the states mean business.
‘This isn't a political statement,’ Ming says. ‘This is tangible.’
At the core of the initiative is ‘changing the supply paradigm’ for NGVs by giving the OEMs certainty that a given level of demand can be expected. In turn, the OEMs will be better positioned to do what they do so well: leverage economies of scale to drive down costs.
The certainty of demand is coming in the form of a request for proposals (RFP) that will be issued and administered by the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO). The group helps aggregate states' purchasing power for everything from textbooks to telephones through competitive solicitation processes.
The details of the RFP are not finalized, but the industry will not have to wait too long for answers. Ming says the governors are holding NASPO to a July 24 target for issuing the RFP, and a Q&A for interested respondents is already scheduled for August 8. Responses to the RFP will be due in early September.
‘The RFP will be wide open to the whole world,’ he remarks.
A beneficial feature of the NASPO process is that all states – including those that did not sign the MOU – can participate, taking advantage of whatever terms result from the RFP. Counties and municipalities can also jump on board, within the letter of the law in their jurisdictions.
Ming says a ‘spectrum of vehicles’ are being considered for the RFP, and he and his colleagues are aware of what is currently available in the market – for instance, the Honda Civic GX, GM's compressed natural gas (CNG) bi-fuel pickup trucks and Chrysler's Dodge Ram 2500 CNG bi-fuel.
The hope, of course, is that the states' initiative will open up a whole new level of interest in NGVs that will spur an even faster build-out of natural gas refueling infrastructure in the U.S.
Photo: A Clean Energy Fuels CNG pump at Yellow Cab in Bloomfield, Conn. Photo (c)NGT News